Odierno: Army Will Become More Capable Through Drawdown

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2012 — The Army will become more capa­ble through its planned draw­down of 80,000 sol­diers and at least eight brigade com­bat teams, its chief of staff said today.

Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no told reporters dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon news brief­ing that he is com­fort­able with the cut in end strength because it reflects chang­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty needs, and will be spread over six years.

“An Army of 490,000 in 2017 will be fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent and more capa­ble than the Army of 482,000 that we had in 2001,” he said, not­ing that today’s troops are com­bat-sea­soned from 10 years of war.

The drop from the cur­rent 570,000 sol­diers is planned as part of the Defense Department’s long-term bud­get process, and in coor­di­na­tion with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s 10-year mil­i­tary strat­e­gy released ear­li­er this month. After five years of grow­ing the Army to meet com­bat needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, Odier­no said “the time is strate­gi­cal­ly right” to reduce end strength, espe­cial­ly since the strat­e­gy does not call for plan­ning for large-scale ground wars.

“This will be done in a respon­si­ble and con­trolled man­ner,” he told reporters. “[Army] Sec­re­tary [John] McHugh and I are com­mit­ted to walk­ing down this hill at the ready, rather than run­ning our nation’s Army off a cliff.”

Odier­no called the process lead­ing up to the strat­e­gy and bud­get pro­pos­al “unprece­dent­ed” in its col­lab­o­ra­tion with the ser­vices. The Army’s No. 1 pri­or­i­ty of fight­ing and win­ning wars is “non-nego­tiable,” he said, “but that’s not the only role of the Army,” which pro­vides a range of capa­bil­i­ties to joint forces.

Under the pro­posed bud­get, the Army would increase its invest­ment in spe­cial oper­a­tions, cyber and avi­a­tion, while main­tain­ing its reliance on a ful­ly oper­a­tional reserve, Odier­no said. It will main­tain readi­ness across its entire force to avoid “tiered readi­ness,” he said.

The Army will pri­or­i­tize its pres­ence in the Asia-Pacif­ic region, which is home to sev­en of the world’s 10 largest armies, the gen­er­al said, and con­tin­ue to focus on the Mid­dle East, while main­tain­ing only a “small foot­print” in Latin Amer­i­ca and Africa.

At the same time, the Army will pull two heavy brigade com­bat teams out of Europe — one in 2013, and the oth­er in 2014 — as part of a draw­down of at least eight brigade com­bat teams, Odier­no said. The two Euro­pean-based teams will be replaced with rotat­ing train­ing units, which like­ly will be bat­tal­ions and com­pa­nies, he said.

The change “will ben­e­fit all of us,” allow­ing for a bet­ter diver­si­fi­ca­tion of forces for NATO train­ing, he said. “I real­ly see this as a mod­el for how we’ll do things in the future.”

A focus of the new mil­i­tary strat­e­gy is to main­tain and build inter­na­tion­al part­ner­ships for mil­i­tary col­lab­o­ra­tion, but, Odier­no not­ed, “I still think we’re going to have plen­ty of capac­i­ty to lead with boots on the ground.”

The Army will save mon­ey by elim­i­nat­ing redun­dan­cies and trim­ming its head­quar­ters bud­get, the gen­er­al said. Also, Pen­ta­gon lead­ers will dis­cuss with Con­gress the pos­si­bil­i­ty of two more rounds of the Base Realign­ment and Clo­sure process, he said, although the Army like­ly would be less affect­ed because it has under­gone heavy BRAC clo­sures already.

The Army must cur­tail the rate of growth in per­son­nel costs, Odier­no said, but is not plan­ning for pay cuts. And, most troop reduc­tions will be done through attri­tion, he said.

Odier­no, who pre­vi­ous­ly head­ed U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand, reject­ed sug­ges­tions that the Army is being looked at dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly for bud­get sav­ings. “This is not about win­ners and losers,” he said, “it’s about com­ing up with the right joint force.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)